Fan’s View 2021/22 – No.44 – Plymouth away

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, April 4th, 2022  

FAN’S VIEW 21/22 – No.44 – PLYMOUTH AWAY

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 1 OXFORD UNITED 0

I’m hoping to make this a brief one as I have little time to bang it out between returning from Devon and heading to Morecambe. Truth be told though I usually fail when trying such things but I’ll give it a go.

As any match progresses my assessment of how we’ve done – deserved of what we end up with, lucky or unlucky – firms up as the clock ticks. By the time the second half had been going for a while I had us down as second best and could only see us getting a point at best and that would have to come from “fluking” a goal because we just weren’t creating anything noteworthy at that stage.

Plymouth appeared to me to be bossing the game. That little bit more strength and is it fair to say desire? No, probably not. That would be wrong but what drove my thinking was that in the very big games when push comes to shove we’ve recently come up short. Well, I’m probably thinking the 3-0 home defeat to Blackpool in the play-off semi-final first leg last season more than I should. Since we’ve returned to tier 3 I am however struggling to recall when we’ve come out on top in a game where the stakes have been so high other than when we saw off Pompey on penalties in the semi-final in 2020. This year’s team is very different but it is kind of a DNA thing. I’m not saying we’ve got a soft underbelly, far from it, but our footballing philosophy and trading goals will not always win the day. As we approach the home straight of a season it becomes more about winning whatever it takes. Have we got that?

In that second period the home side had us exactly where they wanted us and held us there at arm’s length. That’s not the first time we’ve seen a well organised decent team who have self-belief and high levels of confidence borne of a good run, work out how to play us – or should that be stop us playing? They had superb shape and certainly did stop us playing. They marked fairly tightly but not too tight. Ciaran Brown was allowed to get a lot of possession as we tried to play out from the back but then the poor guy had no options whatsoever. I felt sorry for him. Indeed when anyone had the ball there was not a lot on and we were never allowed to go forward in telling fashion. It became one of those games when Matty Taylor was getting no service and no joy. When the ball did have to go long we knew which team was going to win it and where it would end up.

I’m not saying for sure that it would have made any difference, but I’d ask was the game crying out for the injured Cameron Brannagan? He’s noted for dropping deeper, picking the ball up and getting his head up to set things off but for that there needs to be runners and colleagues finding space, holes between the lines and running in behind. All that sort of thing but there was none of it and wasn’t Herbie Kane trying his very best at getting the ball moving anyway? Anything that did happen was just possession stuff in areas that didn’t hurt. There was no cutting through the Argyle back line.

I’m pretty convinced that at this stage of the season a fit Alex Gorrin would have had a big part to play and then there’s Sam Baldock and Marcus Browne. With those two, particularly the former, that extra bit of class is like gold dust. I’m not saying we’re down to the bare bones but when Ryan Williams was replaced by our number 11 on 67 minutes a comment behind me of “you know we’ve lost when we have to bring Sam Winnall on” was heard. I knew where they were coming from. Evidence proved that assessment correct but tbf we had no-one with the je ne sais quoi to spark us into taking even a point.

All I took away with me was an unfair amount of negativity which was compounded by late winners going in elsewhere. Sheffield Wednesday scoring in 90+2 against Wimbledon was bad enough but that only put us down to 6th in the real time table. After the final whistle that’s how it stood as I waited for Mrs FV to come out of the ladies. By the time she emerged we had dropped out of the play-off slots courtesy of Sunderland scoring the only goal of the game on 90+5 at home to Gillingham. This was quite a feck feckerty feck moment.

Much as this drained me I need to hang on to the fact that it is still within our gift to finish at least 6th. Sunderland visit the Kassam this Saturday. The tension will be unbearable but first there’s Morecambe of course. And the Black Cats still have to play Plymouth and Rotherham.  MK Dons have yet to play both Plymouth and Wednesday as have Wycombe who are now on the same points as us having played the same number of games.

Even when my view late on Saturday night was still that we weren’t quite good enough for a point in this game I did recognise that we had been decent in the first half and did create pretty good chances early on, particularly the Gavin Whyte one. And then there was the penalty incident.

With that plus consideration of what fellow yellows have said along with comments from Janners and the fact that Plymouth only had one shot on target all game, I’m becoming persuaded that perhaps we did warrant some spoils after all.

After the game when I told Wozzer – top Argyle man who gets us into the Fans Fest every time we go down there – that they deserved it he replied that we have a very good side and he thinks we’ll meet in the play-offs.

Looking back we did play some really good attacking football in the early part of this game. That must not be overlooked, especially by me.

After some great work between Taylor and Billy Bodin, the latter played a pass into Whyte’s path. At the time as I was about to celebrate a goal I thought what a tremendous save by keeper Michael Cooper. My mate had it down more as a miss. Having seen the replay, yes a miss. Gav’s OUFC finishing isn’t the best part of the game he has brought back to our club. But as we’ve said before if he was putting those away he would quite likely still be at his parent club.

Marcus McGuane, who had a good first half before fading, blocked an attempted clearance and got it back from Whyte before playing the ball into the box. Taylor got there first, sticking a foot out to send it just over the bar.

A McGuane cross to the far post was struck well by Bodin from a tight angle but Cooper, who must be one of the best keepers in this league, kept it out.

Offside or not offside?

The penalty that wasn’t? Let’s be honest here, from behind the goal we have nothing much to go on other than our yellow biasedness. It was hard to find a replay as the incident wasn’t included in the highlights packages I located. I did though eventually track it down and have to say it looks incredibly tight. The linesman had to make a call one way or the other and I think it would be unfair to blame him on this one. If it had gone our way we may or may not have scored the penalty but wouldn’t it have been nice to have had the option of missing it? And they would have probably been reduced to 10 men for denying an obvious goal scoring chance. (Forget who had got on to the pass).

I stopped in Plymouth for a couple of nights and got to know a bit about the place and one or two pubs. I’ve drunk a few beers around the Barbican before but have never previously experienced the city centre as such.

First pub visited on this trip was the GBG listed Brass Monkey. From outside and looking through the window it looked like a Wetherspoons. If it had been there’s more than one reason not to go in but we checked and it wasn’t so we entered. It might as well have been one of Tim Martin’s. It was cheap, that’s all I’ll say for it. I ordered a beer and when the barmaid started pulling the pint I noticed that the glass was already about a quarter full. What was it, slops? Or were they recycling a drink someone had left? For me that behaviour is a no-no but for some reason I didn’t question it. I drank the bloody thing and got out of there pdq but not before seeing one of those things that rarely happens. It was snowing / sleeting outside if we looked to our right but move your head slightly to the left and it was sunny.

If that was a bit bizarre the next pub turned out to be even madder. The Dolphin on the Barbican, as I knew it would be, was 100 times better than the Brass Monkey. It wasn’t as big as I remember it but by the time we went in just before 7 o’clock it was very full and there was a band set up to play just to the right near the door.  The Hot House Combo who deliver 1930’s hot swing & Jazz.  The lady of the band came over and asked if I knew the groom. Er, no I don’t. Did anyone in the pub know the groom? No they didn’t. Perhaps they’d set up in the wrong pub. Someone connected with a wedding had booked them to start playing at 7 o’clock which came and went. It wasn’t a private do either – the pub was still open to the public. There were a few shrugged shoulders. Eventually one of the wedding party arrived. “They’ll be here in two minutes”. They weren’t. More of the party arrived. Quite pissed. More “they’ll be here in two minutes”. At 8 o’clock the bride and groom did indeed walk into the Dolphin. Confetti was thrown and I have to say the Combo (I have one of their cards) were rather good.

There were more chavs (is that a term that is still used?) about than I’d expected as we waited for the bus back to our accommodation. One tiny guy who looked about 13 and must have been on something fronted another slightly bigger similar sort and informed him that if the incident that was occurring had been taken place in London he would have stabbed him. Lovely and it was “oh joy” from Mrs FV when the aggressor boarded our bus. The one left outside proceeded to smack the palms of his hands against the bus window. The driver just sat there as though it was normal everyday activity.

On Saturday we discovered a superb pub. A hidden gem and no mistake. The Providence run by a landlady who knows exactly what drinking establishment should be all about.

And finally the Fans Fest has to be mentioned. Just the same but now in a purpose built two storey venue paid for by the magnificent Green Taverners so it can get even more in. Still Rick O’Shay and Dave Bannana. Plus Chippy – twat. And the very near the knuckle humour. Well nearer than that actually. I love it.

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